Zia Hassan

Magic Is A Gift

I’m a magician. I’ve learned, performed and created magic for the past 26 years or so. I can’t remember a family gathering where I didn’t have a deck of cards on hand.

It started when my grandmother made a coin disappear, right in front of my eyes. I don’t think she used any sleight of hand (I was 4 or so). In fact, I’m pretty sure she just distracted me and dropped the coin into the cushions of the couch we were sitting on.

But that was the start of my fascination with magic. The gigantic tomes with hundreds of methods. The pamphlets with math magic scrawled inside. The magic shops that were much more abundant back then, with their jam packed shelves of god-knows-what… a mix of pranks, gaffs, gimmicks, and secrets.

I performed at family parties.

One uncle that prided himself in figuring out puzzles, would pull me aside after I completed a trick to tell me exactly how it was done. Everyone else probably knew too back then, but he was the one who made sure I knew that the moments of magic I’d been experiencing were more about the novelty of a kid doing magic, rather than disbelief or astonishment.

I remember the first time I did a really strong trick at one of these parties. It was called the invisible deck (and it utilizes one of the most creative and popular principles in card magic). I performed it for my bubble bursting uncle at a wedding. He had many guesses as to how it worked, but for the first time in my life, I noticed a perplexed look on his face. He eventually gave up, told me I did a good job with that one, and walked away.

He and I both remember that moment vividly.

For him, a guy who was always able to analyze and figure out patterns and methods, he had received a moment that he couldn’t explain. And I don’t know if he’d describe it as pleasurable, but it was remarkable.

And for me, I’d learned what it was like to truly astonish someone. To leave them without any explanation. To make them question the very fabric of reality, to make them forget that there’s a method or a gimmick somewhere in plain sight that could explain away the feeling of confusion. To make them not even care about the solution.

In other words: a gift.

A magic trick is a gift. We live in a world of reality almost 24/7, so when I offer you a card trick, I’m offering you a chance to experience the surreal. You can’t just decide to have that. It can’t be contained within a YouTube video. Some event has to naturally occur for you to enter that state.

Normally, the surreal occurs without warning. I get to bow tie it.

I have a cousin who will still try to call me out on my tricks. At get togethers, he’ll point out when he notices me slipping on a move. I’ve learned to handle hecklers by not giving them power. And sometimes I’ll even give a quick smile and nod, and continue my trick anyway.

But it grinds me a bit.

Magic is an art form. It’s somewhere between a game and a performance piece. We play together when I do magic for you. And with any other art form, there’s a suspension of disbelief required for it to be effective.

You wouldn’t go to a movie, and in the middle of the most dramatic scene, stand up and proclaim to the audience “this isn’t real! These are actors! You’re crying over fake events!”

Or like watching tv shows on particular types of drugs. You start to notice the lighting, the set, the make up. You start to see the show as a recording of actors in a studio. It becomes mundane.

We live with mundane. It’s necessary.

But a moment that is unique and surreal and inexplicable? It’s a gift.

Don’t ever forget that.